The University announced plans to continue its CARES Act grants this semester, revealing Wednesday afternoon that it will deliver an additional $8.5 million to students in need.
As a part of the sprawling $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed late last March, Cornell netted $12.8 million in relief funding from the federal government. While the legislation said that up to $6.4 million could go to offset University expenses, President Martha E. Pollack promised instead that all federal money would be distributed to students directly in the form of additional aid.
Having already sent $5 million in emergency funding to nearly 4,000 Cornellians in the spring, over $7 million still remains to be allocated.
“We’ve been thinking and planning all summer for how we are going to redistribute the second half,” said Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment, in an interview with The Sun. “We’ve now come up with the answer.”
The remaining CARES Act money — in addition to a further $2 million supplement contributed by Cornell — will be delivered in the form of two separate programs.
According to Burdick, $1 million will be available through an emergency fund, intended to assist students who face unanticipated expenses — such as travel or technology — not currently addressed by their financial aid.
Another $7.5 million will be spent to fund COVID Summer Savings Expectation Grants, a program intended to account for the fact that many Cornellians, amid unprecedented economic distress, were not able to find adequate employment. Typically, financial aid packages are structured under the assumption that students are able to earn money in the summer, and therefore, contribute to tuition.
While the program will not address new needs “comprehensively,” Burdick said, it will essentially act as an “accelerator” on normal financial aid, providing about a 5 percent bump. Notably, eligibility for the grants is not tied to whether or not a student was able to find a job over the summer.
“We’re making an assumption that, if your economic circumstances are really tough, [and] even if you were able to earn your normal amount this summer … you still had all kinds of things around you and your family that became new and unexpected expenses,” Burdick said.
Over 4,000 students are expected to be able to take advantage of the new program, with the average size of the awards ranging from $500 to $2,000, depending on a student’s financial aid status.
While distribution of CARES Act funding had been previously overseen by Student and Campus Life, it will now be administered by the Office of Financial Aid. Grants will be credited to students’ Bursar accounts, and, like typical financial aid, will be split between the fall and spring semesters.
Although the financial aid process has been beset by “very serious” delays for months — there are still at least 300 applications that remain outstanding — Burdick expected that students will begin receiving grants in October. Those applying for emergency funding can expect an even faster turnaround time.
According to Burdick, the reaction among students to Cornell’s CARES Act program has been largely positive.
“All the feedback we’ve had is that, [to] students, it really mattered. It was the neediest students that tended to get the most, and we’ve had absolutely no feedback about that,” Burdick said. “It’s not that easy … to turn around and distribute $6 million, and try to make sure you’re being fair. So that went pretty smoothly.”